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Residents of the Beaver State, rejoice! The state senate just passed a bill that will expand paid time off from work to care for your family. Following Washington D.C. a few years ago, Oregon will now have "the most progressive paid family and medical leave in the country."
Oregon House Bill 2005, which passed through the state senate on a 21-6, bipartisan vote, provides workers with up to 12 weeks of paid time off to recuperate from their own serious illness, care for new babies or new adopted or foster children, tend to sick family members, and deal with domestic violence. "In 1991, as an advocate for the Women's Rights Coalition, I first began working on Paid Family Leave," Governor Kate Brown said as she signed the bill into law. "Now, we can finally tell parents that they no longer will have to worry about losing their pay when they are having a baby or need to care for a loved one."
Oregon will also be the first state to pay low-income workers 100 percent of their wages during their family leave, although weekly benefits are capped at around $1,215. The bill also guarantees that eligible employees will have their job when they return to work. While businesses with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from contributing into the fund that will pay the benefits, anyone earning at least $1,000 a year can qualify for paid time off.
And New Jersey is the only other state to provide protection for domestic violence victims in paid leave legislation. The only downside to Oregon's new law is that it doesn't go into effect until 2023, after the state has had time to set up the infrastructure and amass the funds necessary to implement the plan.
While the federal Family Medical Leave Act sets the floor for protected time off from work, states have the ability to raise the ceiling on those protections. And it should be noted that protected time does not equal paid time. So while most workers can't be fired for taking time off under the FMLA, they don't have to be paid during that time. Which makes Oregon's state mandate all the more exceptional.
If you have questions about paid time off in your state, contact a local employment attorney.